This year, I've been working much more closely with my Socially Crafted organisations, as part of their design process, to create small and unique craft ranges that work well alongside my handweaving. Since merging what used to be 'The Craft Unit' with my own work and the Artisan Crafted range and bringing everything together under the umbrella of The Handloom Room, I've been working on making the ranges more cohesive and complimentary.
It's really important to me that all ranges within The Handloom Room reflect my ethos of creating work that has no negative impact on the environment - and in the case of my Truly Mendip range, actively benefits biodiversity! - making sure that all pieces are carefully crafted using sustainable or biodegradable materials.
I was really delighted to start working with Vision21 Crafts, having already worked with V21 Pottery for a few years now. V21 Crafts are the multi-craft wing of the V21 charity, which describes itself as a dynamic and inspiring place for people with learning disabilities, based in Cardiff. They work with papercraft, quilling, greetings cards and felt-making and their characterful, needle felted sheep caught my eye straight away!
After a few conversations with Sue, their Project Leader, it was settled that the V21 Craft makers would create a range of sheep using locally sourced, undyed Welsh wool, especially for The Handloom Room.
After they delivered a flock of beautiful sheep, I thought it would be lovely to catch up with the team and get to know a bit more about what life is like in the V21 Crafts studio; how the collaborative process between the makers who have learning disabilities and the staff works, and how the makers feel about the importance of crafting...
Jade: Can you tell us a bit about V21 Crafts?
Sue: V21Crafts has been running for 14 years. In this time we have explored a number of different craft techniques and projects. For example: book folding, collage, 3D frames, quilling. We predominantly make greeting cards in Welsh and English and also take on commissions for personalized cards and weddings (invitations, save the dates, order of service and wedding favours). In 2019 the project received a grant from the Wales Millennium Stadium Charitable Trust which enabled us to explore the world of felt-making.
Jade: How does your design and make process work?
Sue: All the trainees are involved with the ideas for the felted items. They all help with the basic shapes as a base for the item which staff then add details to finish it off. We have also worked on commissions for the felted items. Currently birthday cakes for special birthdays have been popular (with numbers on), flower key rings and we have just started making Christmas decorations.
Jade: What's the best thing about making?
JP (maker): It’s a nice job and gives me a break from my college work. It’s also nice to think of and make different things.
MD (maker): It makes me happy, proud and relaxed.”
LT (maker): It occupies your mind. It’s very relaxing and laid back work.
Jade: What inspires you and your craft work?
JP: Nature and wildlife (flowers/animals). I really like things to do with nature.
LT: We get to do different ideas and things. I’m currently working on a figure of Freddie Mercury!
Why/is it important to you to be a craftsperson?
JP: We learn new skills here and do things we don’t normally do every day.
LT: Because it is something I enjoy and like doing.
AK: It makes me very happy.
Jade: What do you think about your felted sheep being sold at the Handloom Room?
JP: It’s good because it helps to make money for our charity. It also helps to let everyone know about V21 and all the work we do here.
MD: I feel very proud that lots of people will see what I made and that makes me happy.
Jade: What's the most popular music in the V21 Crafts studio at the moment?!
Sue: On Mondays and Fridays we listen to anything Disney! The rest of the week we listen to Radio 2.
Thanks for the chat everyone!
Their beautifully felted sheep are for sale via my Etsy shop for just £10 each. They can also be purchased as part of my new 'Wool Lovers' Gift Box' which includes a sheep and one of my handwoven, Mendip lavender bags for £20. Such good gifts for wool obsessives!
V21 Crafts also have their own Etsy site where they sell the full range of their work.
A sheep being felted Wool Lovers' Gift Box Freddy Mercury in progress!